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After an unexpected monthslong delay, a bill to authorize North Carolina sports betting at two tribal casinos is back on track.
Rep. Kevin Corbin, sponsor of the companion House NC sports betting bill, told Legal Sports Report he expected the legislation to advance through committee and pass on the House floor by Thursday.
The Rules Committee assigned S 154 to the House Commerce Committee for a hearing Tuesday morning. The bill cleared Commerce on a voice vote and heads back to Rules.
Barely more than a page, the simple bill adds NC sports betting to the Class III games permitted at Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian casinos.
When S 154 easily cleared the Senate by a 42-7 vote early in April, it seemed like North Carolina might be the first state to legalize sports betting in 2019.
Instead, six states passed it by before the House even took up the Senate bill.
Corbin explained that another bill with a sports betting study component caused confusion among his colleagues that delayed his legislation.
“We did not see the other bill coming and were kind of blindsided by the fact that it held our bill up,” Corbin said. “The problem was that people thought we should have a discussion on if we are going to study sports betting before we let it out.”
Introduced a week after Senate passage, H 929 seeks to establish a North Carolina Gaming Commission to oversee all gambling in the state. It would authorize the new commission to regulate daily fantasy sports and conduct a feasibility study on legal sports betting.
Understandably, representatives questioned passing a bill that allowed for NC sports betting while a feasibility study was pending.
Corbin assured leadership in the House that it made sense to move both bills forward at once. The Eastern Band could have wagering while the state studied whether to expand NC sports betting outside the casinos.
“I tried to convince them that these were two completely different things,” Corbin said. “The casinos are already there. This doesn’t create more gambling in North Carolina; it just allows them to offer one more activity.”
The assignment is an indication that he succeeded.
Corbin added that the tribe does not oppose H 929, and he thinks both bills could pass.
North Carolina’s legislative session was expected to end by July 1, when the budget for the next fiscal year was needed.
However, Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the budget passed by both chambers of the legislature for not including a Medicaid expansion that he favors.
As the state continues to operate under the previous budget, the impasse created an opportunity for additional time to consider the NC sports betting proposal.
“Sometimes nothing is easy, but I think we’re getting it done,” Corbin said.